Cooking Tips rss

Ideas, advice, and what to make now from the Chowhound community and CHOW editors.

Frozen Corn Satisfies Winter Cravings

While freshly picked summer corn can't be beat, you can make dishes with great corn flavor using frozen corn kernels during months when it isn't in season.

cheesecake17 says roasting corn kernels "really changes the corn and adds a nice sweetness." She spreads the kernels in a single layer on a baking sheet and pats them dry with a paper towel. Use the roasted corn in salsa or salad. alkapal likes roasted corn with diced red bell pepper, black-eyed peas, lime juice, and cilantro.

Corn marries well with shellfish in corn and crab bisque and crisp chipotle shrimp with corn and scallions, which is "really great," says Val. "The colors in this dish are amazing too," she adds.

For a side dish, try spicy Indian corn with mustard seeds, or Mexican-style corn with crème fraîche, lime, and chile, suggest hounds.

AndrewK512 suggests a delicious pasta sauce made by puréeing the corn and lightly pressing it through a sieve until you have corn milk; bring to a simmer, emulsify with butter, add whole corn kernels and chives. Gild the lily with truffle oil if you wish.

Discuss: what to do with all this corn?

Tzatziki Doesn’t Have to Be Watery

Tzatziki, the Greek yogurt and cucumber spread, is too often watery and bitter, rather than creamy and flavorful. Here's how to make it right.

Start with thick Greek yogurt, or strain the whey from a natural, full-fat yogurt by putting the yogurt in a dampened paper coffee filter or cheesecloth set in a sieve for several hours, until the yogurt is thick.

Wring the grated cucumber in a towel to get rid of excess moisture; some hounds salt the cucumber to draw out moisture before wringing it out. If you are using standard American cucumbers, remove the seeds, advises danieljdwyer.

Add minced or crushed garlic and salt to taste, but keep in mind the garlic will get more pungent over time, says chowser. yamalam marinates the garlic in the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon or two of white wine vinegar for 10 minutes to soften its bite. Some finish with a bit of olive oil, and add fresh dill or mint.

kattyeyes loves this recipe. "Try it with a lamburger," she suggests. "Mmmmmm!"

Discuss: Anyone have a good recipe for tzatziki?

Hearty Meatless Split Pea Soup

While many split pea soup recipes include smoked ham hocks for flavor, it's easy to make a vegetarian version that's just as satisfying.

Most hounds use a pretty standard base: green or yellow split peas, chopped onions, carrots, and celery, and water or vegetable broth, plus salt and pepper. Some use garlic, and herbs such as bay leaves or thyme for seasoning.

And then there's the special ingredients to deepen the soup's flavor. dmd_kc adds a spoonful of prepared mustard. "The mustard wakes up the earthiness of the split peas," he says, "and doesn't end up reading as mustardy." bear uses soy sauce at the end of cooking. If you want a bit of smoky flavor without meat, try adding smoked paprika, bacon salt, or a bit of liquid smoke.

odkaty thinks the split pea soup recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is fabulous; it includes marjoram, paprika, bay leaves, thyme, and soy sauce. CindyJ's go-to recipe has parsnips, which add a nice sweetness, she says.

Discuss: Vegetarian split pea soup?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I keep all my schmaltz (fat) from chicken, roasts, hamburger, even gravy fat, and cook roast potatoes in it from time to time, then I keep that fat too and reuse. Haven't killed anybody yet!" - smartie

"I use Trader Joe's wasabi mayo to coat fish before baking on a rack in a pan. Season with S&P, allow to sit at room temp. for about an hour, then coat and bake @350° for 20-25 minutes. Pork chops and lamb chops are also good this way, with longer cooking times." - Will Owen

"It's wonderful with sour cream—better than mayonnaise, in fact. Just on its own, that's a nice dip for vegetables. Crumble some bacon and squeeze lemon into it for a better version of that nasty fake glop in the plastic tubs. This is magnificent on baked potatoes, too." - dmd_kc, on prepared horseradish

How to Cook Pasta Without Boiling Water

Does pasta really need to be cooked in boiling water? While the conventional wisdom says yes, some hounds contend that it makes sense to cook pasta in a more flavorful liquid, such as stock or even the sauce you plan to serve with the pasta. "By cooking in sauce or stock," says bushwickgirl, "you're enhancing the flavor of a rather bland product."

Many hounds use regular dried noodles in lasagne without pre-cooking, and find it works fine as long as they add a bit more sauce than usual. Cooking pasta in sauce on the stovetop takes a bit more finesse in order to ensure it cooks evenly and the sauce doesn't stick. You'll need to dilute your sauce a bit so it doesn't get too thick as the pasta absorbs liquid, and you must stir often. The method works best with short and small pasta shapes, according to bushwickgirl. cinnamon girl has made skillet lasagne this way with good results.

Another approach is to cook pasta as you would risotto, gradually adding small amounts of liquid and allowing the pasta to absorb it, as in this absorption pasta and Alain Ducasse's olive mill pasta. "You can do it equally well with a tomato-based sauce" as with stock, says rainey. "It's a unique method and works quite well."

Discuss: Why cook pasta in water and not the sauce?

The Smooth Indulgence of Chicken Liver

Chicken liver pâté is a rich, elegant appetizer that's perfect for a cocktail party or celebration meal.

This recipe from BLT Steak restaurant, in which the livers are cooked in duck fat and combined with a port reduction, is "truly decadent," says goodhealthgourmet. Emeril Lagasse's version is "relatively simple and very good," thinks caiatransplant. She suggests adding jarred truffles for an extra touch of luxe.

bizkat recommends Jacques Pépin's recipe, but uses only one stick of butter, which he thinks gives a liver-to-butter ratio that's "just right." nomadchowwoman likes this bourbon chicken liver pâté; she doubles the allspice and adds a bit more salt.

Most pâté recipes call for sautéing the livers before combining them with the other ingredients, but aggiecat prefers to poach them gently in dry white wine, to avoid overcooking. nomadchowwoman notes that, while most pâtés will only last a few days in the fridge, they can be frozen and later thawed with excellent results.

Discuss: favorite chicken liver pate recipes?

Tangerines Brighten Winter Dishes

Tangerines that quite aren't sweet enough to eat out of hand are terrific roasted with duck, chicken, or pork, says chefathome. "Roasted citrus is more flavourful than raw and adds a new dimension," he notes. Slice a tangerine paper thin and place the slices atop the meat before roasting, and "the tangerine cooks down into a lovely mass of flavour." Halve a second tangerine and roast the halves, flesh side down, in the pan with the meat, then squeeze the juice onto the finished meat.

Tangerine peels can be dried and used as an aromatic seasoning. Pare them in large pieces, allow to air dry, and use in Chinese soups and braises, suggests fourunder. Dried tangerine zest mixed with sea salt and dried rosemary makes a blend that's great on many things, but is especially wonderful on delicate white fish, says chefathome.

Ottolenghi's orange polenta cake is delicious made with tangerines, according to jen kalb. Or use them in this flourless clementine cake, made with almonds.

Discuss: what to do with about a pound of tangerines

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"The way to salt a burger is to put about a half teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a preheated cast iron pan and then put the unsalted patty into the pan on top of the salt." - KaimukiMan

"Just for a variation here, add a cup of creamy peanut butter and 1/4 cup butterscotch to any of the finished hot fudge recipes and you'll have an awesome peanut butter fudge sauce for ice cream." - morwen

"The greatest error I'm aware of when using liquid smoke is that it's quite easy to use too much and allow the smoky flavor to overpower the dish. Start with small amounts, add a very little at a time until you achieve the level of smokiness you want." - todao

Tasty Teatime Sandwiches

Tiny, delicate tea sandwiches are primarily found at British afternoon tea, but you needn't be putting the kettle on to enjoy them, and hounds have lots of tasty ingredient ideas.

Shrimp salad is a classic filling; making it well is all about getting the details right. Use a medium shrimp, recommends alkapal, who thinks they're sweeter than large ones. Most hounds boil or poach shrimp for salad in the shell in water flavored with some combination of lemon, peppercorns, and herbs.

To your peeled, chopped shrimp, add "a little mayo, minced celery, shallot, S&P, maybe a tiny bit of very finely minced hot pepper, and you're good to go," says pikawicca. "I think the real key in any seafood salad is simply to barely dress it," advises dmd_kc. In addition to using in sandwiches, "try serving in boats made of hollowed-out ripe avocados, suggests pasuga. "Wonderful texture combination."

On the vegetarian front, smartie says classic cucumber sandwiches are made with thinly sliced white sandwich bread spread with salted butter, thinly sliced English cucumbers, and salt and pepper. "It's a great sandwich in amongst the other standards of a classic British afternoon tea," says Harters. But, he adds, "On their own, they're waste of space."

Hounds make cucumber variations that hold greater appeal. wineos uses Boursin cheese in place of butter. Others use mixtures of cream cheese, mayo, and grated onion; or cream cheese, garlic, dill, and lemon juice. Refrigerate these mixtures overnight so the flavors marry. LaLa says that, in Kentucky, a spread known as Benedictine is made by combining cream cheese, mayo, grated onion, salt, and drained grated cucumber, and tinting it with green food coloring.

Discuss: Shrimp Salad Sandwich
How to make cucumber sandwiches?

Buttermilk, Savory and Sweet

Buttermilk is a tangy cultured dairy product that enhances both savory and sweet dishes.

Several hounds love to use buttermilk in mashed potatoes. soupkitten suggests making buttermilk-herb dressing (here's CHOW's recipe), which you can use on a green salad and then "make the world's best mashed potatoes using the leftovers."

Buttermilk is often used to soak chicken before it's fried; Val likes this spicy oven-fried version. Sharuf's standard gravy uses buttermilk and Wondra flour or cornstarch. Just add them to the pan used for cooking meat. "This gives a sour cream flavor, minus the calories," she says. coll has used buttermilk in curries as a lower-fat alternative to coconut milk.

Buttermilk is a great base for creamy sweets such as panna cotta, smoothies, and mango lassi. "Though most Western recipes use yogurt to make lassi," notes Rasam, "it can be made with buttermilk." Hansel says this pineapple buttermilk sorbet is delicious and refreshing.

Discuss: Surplus of Buttermilk